Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Different Stories Lead to Different Existences

When a hurricane hits and destroys a block of houses, everyone is a victim of the storm. We didn't create the storm and we are not responsible for the losses we have suffered.

The loss and suffering require emotional processing. We need to experience the feelings that have been evoked in us by the losses and there will no doubt be suffering. In the aftermath of a sudden and unwished for upending of our lives, we will very likely be sad, angry, and scared. Each of these emotions has a meaning and purpose and requires certain responses on our part for healthy resolution (see my website at http://www.supportforchange.com/ the sections on feelings for a fuller discussion of emotions and health).

The loss of a home requires changes in many of our thought structures as well. It changes our finances, our sense of security and safety, our expectations about the future, and might call into question our judgment and planning. It may erode the foundation that our sense of meaning is built upon. The need for readjustments of our inner expectations, attitudes, and beliefs also requires resolution and our sense of purpose.

Following a major upheavel such as losing one's house to a storm, there will be major individual differences in how long this kind of processing and resolution will take. Also people require different amounts of external support for these processes and different people may have available different amounts of external support.

These factors determine how long it takes for people to move out of victimhood. Healthy people do move from being victims, and do not continue to define their lives in terms of the losses that they have had. Some people recover quickly and some people take a long time and some people get "stuck" and remain victims for the rest of their lives.

The people who first got on the cell phone and started sifting through debris in the hour after they arrived at the site of their destoyed home, were starting to move out of victimhood very quickly. (Probably even before their mourning was complete. Hopefully, they would also make time to experience and resolve their feelings about the loss, even as they continued to cope with the injury).

The people who were still sitting in their lawn chairs in front of the rubble of their former home ten years later, had apparently made a decision at some point to make victimhood the defining aspect of their existence.

Presumably if we asked the people who rebuilt their houses (or even the ones who sold their lots and moved away and renewed their lives somewhere else) and the people remaining in the lawn chairs to tell their life stories, they would read very differently.

For example: .......in 1982 we were living on this block when hurricane Isabel hit. You wouldn't believe the devestation. We'd only finished our house five years before and we really loved it. When we returned after the storm, I just couldn't believe what I saw. The house was leveled, just a pile of junk and everything we owned had been torn apart or blown away. At first glance, it looked like there wasn't anything left. At first I thought my life was over and that the loss was just too great to be endured. Then I noticed that there was a small iron table that had been in my mother's house that was sticking up out of the debris and I was curious. I went over and felt like I had to dig it out of the pile of rubble and when I discovered that it was intact, I realized I wasn't going to let this storm destory my life. I told Joan to get on the phone and call our insurance agent and I started digging to see what else I could find. It was a really hard few months, but we knew we could make it. We had to fight the insurance company to get enough money to rebuild and we could only afford to build a smaller house than the one we had. In the end, we came to see even that as a blessing, because we ended up with more yard space and when we got back on our feet, we were able to put in a small pool. We still miss our Florida room sometimes, but we are really glad to have the pool. It was a terrible ordeal, but we survived it and I think it made us closer as a couple--we worked together, we shared the pain and the joy of rebuilding our lives.

For example... in 1982 we were living on this block when hurricane Isabel hit. It destroyed our home and wrecked our lives. We lost everything and we've never been able to have a real life since. The insurance company didn't want to pay to rebuild the house and we spent years fighting the bastards, but they never would give us a fair settlement. By the time they wrote us a check, we owed most of it to the damn lawyers and there wasn't enough to build a decent house. So we just stay in a trailer that my cousin owns and pay a little rent from what we got from the insurance company. Most days we just come over and sit in the yard and remember wht we used to have and what we were planning for our future. All that is gone now, we've got nothing and it looks like we never will. Life is so unfair. We know people over in Citrustown just a few miles away that didn't even get any damage from the wind when that storm hit us. Those lucky dogs have a beautiful house and are still living just the way they always wanted. We deserved to have a good life just as much as they did.


  1. You presented excellent posts in your first 3 entries. Unlike many other blogs, yours looks like it has a clear sense of purpose and is written with great clarity.

    I agree with what you said about victimization. When my wife left me with my three daughters 18 years ago, I was very depressed and bitter at first. But after the divorce I focused on raising my wonderful daughters and moving on. I have been verily happily married to my present wife for the past 12 years. Her daughter and my oldest were best friends and introduced us when they were in middle school. Now all of our daughters have moved out and seem well on their way to successful lives. And I am very content.

    I am going to add myself as your first follower as your blog mission sounds intriguing. I am also very interested in personal histories. I have been blogging for about a month now and still trying to find my voice. I hope you might check out my blog and add yourself as a follower. Since you are so adept at writing I hope you might take a look a some of my entries and give some critique and opinion. I have had some commentary although nothing in the way of giving critical analysis of the writing and content. See my blog at:

    I'm looking forward to your future posts. By the way, the link you gave to your website did not work -- you may want to fix that-- but I did enter it manually. Looks very nice and informative. I have added the site to my "favorites" so I can go back to it as it looks like it has a lot of content. Good luck with your blog.

    And thank you,

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